ASPERGER SYNDROME

Compiled by Andrew Basden.

Contents:

My Story

In May 2002 I was diagnosed as having mild Asperger's Syndrome (A.S.), which itself is a mild form of autism. Difficulty with non-verbal social phenomena is a main factor, and was the main thing that was mentioned in my diagnosis: I have difficulty in both giving and recognising normal non-verbal signs when with people. The finding explains why, for example, I have always had trouble in committee meetings: I always find myself being overspoken, and do not seem to be able to get a word in by ordinary means, resorting either to formal means (putting up a hand as a request to speak) or to interrupting someone else who is speaking. I have always tended to avoid 'networking' - something that is so essential for an academic career! It also explains why I sometimes have difficulty in knowing what a person's real mood is.

People with A.S. can also be very intense when speaking on a one-to-one basis, and not be aware to social conventions regarding how to talk or what to talk about. I have on occasion found I have made inappropriate contributions to discussion, some of them quite embarrassing!

I do not exhibit every symptom of A.S. Some A.S. people find it difficult to handle change and always want things to be the same, but I always like trying out new things. Some people with severe A.S. can be very shut-off from people, wrapped up in their own world, but this is not true of me. Indeed, I can be more aware of other people at a deep level than most people are. However, a milder form is found in focusing on certain activities; and I do find I cannot 'keep several balls in the air' as is required of, for example, managers. I much prefer to focus on a single activity or goal at a time, and devote my whole resources thereto. In such single-minded tasks I tend to commit myself to giving my best - another recognised trait of A.S. people.

As indicated by the last feature, A.S. is not all bad news. A.S. people can be creative, high-powered thinkers, with courage to make a contribution outside the mainstream; many academics have A.S. It has been said that computers were designed for and by people with A.S.! A.S. people also tend to be straightforward, not manipulating people or having hidden agendas. See 'Benefits of Asperger' below.

Prof. Tantam, who diagnosed me, suggested that two other of my characteristics are due to two other things and not due to A.S., though they often go together. One is Tourette Syndrome, which, he and his colleague believed, is what my noises etc. are. The other is scars from childhood; I was teased and bullied at school, and it was driven deep into my soul that Other People are horrible, nobody likes me, nobody believes me, nobody respects me, and so on. Prof. Tantam believed that the personality scars I bear from that are not in themselves Asperger's Syndrome, though the scars and the syndrome accentuate each other (and Tourette Syndrome makes me the butt of teasing laughter). For example, my inability to react normally in social situations probably contributed to my being teased and rejected in childhood.

Knowing I have these three things, distinct but related, has helped me make sense of how I am. I feel I can now move forward and face each in its own right rather than trying to cope with the whole tangle that I previously felt myself to be. However, my brother wisely suggested to me, I should be careful not to define myself in these terms. I am a human being created in the image of God, fallen but forgiven and indwelt by his Holy Spirit, and that fact is much more important than the three problems even if put together. And I have a supportive wife and two great sons who respect me and I respect them.


Some Benefits of Asperger

(Asperger's Syndrome is not all bad news. Here are some of its benefits, at least as I reflect on my own experience of it. Forgive me if this sounds a bit arrogant; it is 'direct', as mentioned above and below, because it tries to fulfil its own proclamation.)

We seek truth, not sham;
    Reality, not opinion.
We say it like it is,
    With no hidden agendas.
We're not imprisoned in what others think.

We like the best, the right,
    Valuing every detail.
We're direct; single-minded,
    Focusing intensely,
We seek the optimum in each thing we do.

We think in different ways;
    We try the unusual.
We work new things out
    To their logical end -
Bequesting new ways of understanding things.

We are loyal, not scheming;
    We eschew selfish gain.
We keep at it to the end,
    We like to please everyone,
Disillusioned if we let anything down.

We see meaning in all.
    We empathise 'the other' -
Animals, objects, habits,
    People, young and old -
We dignify all who're overlooked by the crowd.

Sensitive to nuances
    That others don't see,
We attend to the small
    And link things differently.
We are artists - our medium is life itself.


Pain and Problems of Asperger ?

The pain or problems of Asperger's Syndrome is often just the other side of the coin from the benefits. There might be some pain that has nothing to do with the benefits, but by and large, in my experience, each benefit brings with it its own pain. Here are some ideas:


David Livingstone - Did he exhibit Asperger's Syndrome?

I wonder if David Livingstone (born 200 years ago) had Asperger's Syndrome? My sources for the following are a BBC Radio 4 discussion on World At One (WATO) today (10 March 2013), and the book David Livingstone - The Unexplored Story by Stephen Tomkins [Lion, 2013]. Both were good, at showing both the positive and negative sides.


See also ...


Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2002, 2013, (especially, I suppose, the verse) but you may use this material as you wish as long as it is not done in an adversarial manner - because words can never fully express what I mean - and as long as you give credit where it is due.

Last updated: 30 June 2002, 11 July 2002, 15 September 2002, 22 September 2002. 9 May 2008 benefits of aspg version 1, 16 May 2008 version 2, 18 May 2008 version 3. 22 May 2008 began the Pain. 1 January 2009 various pain. 10 March 2013 pain slightly rewritten, and rid a redundant phrase in Benefits, and modified the copyright; Livingstone; 'see also'; contents. 21 April 2013 some modifications to Livingstone list. 4 November 2015 universities. 7 March 2016 corrected links (Thanks to Beverley Winn for pointing them out), link to confessions, and to unvs.